From practical considerations like electrical outlets, to cultural differences regarding hygiene, your trip will be a lot more fun if you know what you’re getting into.
By Annie Farrell, James Madison University
Planning your first trip to Europe is a thrilling, exciting experience.
Like any trip, you’ll have to plan out all of the clothes, shoes, toiletries and accessories that you want to bring, as well as the places you want to visit. All of these things are important to your daily life and will help you to feel more at home while on the other side of the world, but only keeping these few things in mind will not be enough. Many people do not think about the overarching cultural and lifestyle differences between Europe and the United States that will have an impact on their experiences.
If you’re planning on taking a trip to Western Europe, make sure to consider these six potential logistical hiccups when preparing for your trip.
1. Weird Outlets
One thing that is important to keep in mind is the fact that the outlets in Europe are not the same as they are in the United States. If you want anything from your phone charger to your hair dryer to work while out of the country, would will need to buy a power adapter.
The adapters will allow you to plug your appliances into the adapter, and then plug the adapter itself into the wall. Bringing several of these with you will make your trip run more smoothly and will remove the stress of figuring out how to charge your phone when it’s on ten percent.
2. Don’t Pay More for Your Phone Plan
It is essential that you figure out an international phone plan before you leave. Depending on your carrier, there are plenty of options that could make your trip much cheaper.
You also could wait until you get to the particular country you are going to and get a SIM card for your phone in that country, meaning that you will have a phone plan for that country and you will have a phone number for that country as well. Regardless of what you do, make sure you figure it out before you leave so that you will not have to worry about it once you get to your destination.
3. Hygiene and Medicine
You should also research your destination to figure out that quality of the drinking water there. Some cities in Europe have excellent tap water, but others are not the safest to drink. This type of information is good to know beforehand, especially if you are going somewhere where English is not the native language, because it might be difficult to get a clear answer from the people around you.
Also along the lines of health and safety in other countries, you should research what over-the-counter medicines are sold in the country you are going to. Medications like Advil and Tylenol are much harder to come by in many European countries, so it is important for you to know if you need to bring them along with you or not.
4. Cultural Time Differences
Another thing to note is that most Europeans treat meal times differently than they do in America. For example, the portions are generally smaller than you might be used to due to the fact that many European countries customarily have several courses dedicated to one meal.
Europeans are also known for eating dinner much later than Americans. While you might be ready for dinner around 6:30pm, most restaurants in Europe will not be ready to serve you until at least 7:30pm. You also might be surprised to learn that it is not always necessary to tip your waiters and waitresses. Instead, the restaurant might have a general cover charge that will be added to the price of your meal.
5. Fashion Forward
If you are really concerned about fitting in and not standing out as a tourist, you should make sure to understand European fashion. It is very rare to see Europeans walking around in yoga pants and t-shirts. Instead, you should try to dress up your wardrobe a little bit.
Girls should bring a few more dresses and skirts than you would usually wear, and guys should bring more button-down shirts and khaki pants. If you are visiting a big tourist city, these clothing tips might not be as important, but if you are looking to fit in in a smaller city, having the right clothing could help you to do so.
It could also be helpful to educate yourself on the local commodities that the nation you are visiting have. For example, many countries and cities have a specialty meal or food product. Knowing what delicacies are important to the people around you will help you to further immerse yourself in the culture and to have a better appreciation of the world in which you have wrapped up.
6. Europe Is Not Your Home
The final piece of information about your first trip to Europe is simple—don’t try to make it America. If you arrive in Europe expecting everything to be the same as your daily life at home, you will be in for a severe case of culture shock. The whole point of traveling out of the country is to experience a lifestyle different than your own, so you should have an open mind when traveling to a new country. If you come in wanting to immerse yourself in the culture and to learn and experience everything that you can, then you will be sure to have a great time.
Opening yourself up to new experiences is the best part about traveling to Europe or any other foreign country. By educating yourself about the way of life in the country you are visiting, you will be able to have a better understanding of how those people live and you will be able to prepare yourself for your experiences abroad.